Must Read After My Death Snapshots an Era that Makes Revolutionary Road a Tea Party


Who owns this devastating documentary portrait of domestic misery in early-1960s suburban America? Charley, the angry, tidiness-obsessed father whose careless updates about his multiple infidelities to his wife, Allis, sound less like confessions than salt rubbed carefully into the wounds of her alleged insufficiencies? Allis, who is heard confiding her escalating unhappiness into a crackly Dictaphone originally purchased to narrow the gulf between her and her husband, whose work took him away from home for long stretches? The shrink, who bullied and tranquilized her into taking the blame for her husband’s peccadilloes and her children’s difficulties? Or the couple’s grandson, filmmaker Morgan Dews, who juxtaposes Allis’s high, querulous, and increasingly desperate recorded voice with the pitifully banal home movies that show Charley, an unlikely Lothario in specs and a bald pate, posing or roughhousing with the grinning kids we know to be sliding into depression and dysfunction? An artful arranger of evidence, Dews tacitly shifts the balance of domestic power to his grandmother. Honoring both her shocking vulnerability and the rebellious spirit that her domineering spouse never fully quashed, Dews helps Allis hold out a gendered posthumous snapshot of an era whose smug surface, barely masking oceans of suffering, makes Revolutionary Road look like a tea party.

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